Iván Abad Iglesias lives in Barcelona with his family, he is 40 years old and has more than 15 years of experience in retail. He has practically developed his entire career at Mango, where he became part of the Executive Committee, and a few months ago he began his career as an entrepreneur by launching Wemuse, an app for the product selection process in retail.
The Fashion Retailer: What’s Wemuse? Where the idea comes from?
Ivan Abad Iglesias: I have developed my career basically in 2 areas: product management and retail, managing stores worldwide. The first has allowed me to understand that getting the right product selection and distribution is key to success in retail. The second, has allowed me to know many countries and cultures, discover that companies have people with a lot of talent and knowledge spread throughout the world, and that incorporating that knowledge into decision-making has a lot of potential. Wemuse was born from all this experience.
TFR: How does Wemuse work?
Ivan A.I.: Wemuse is an app that allows you to have feedback from your employees (and whomever you choose) instantly and measurably at the key moment: during the process of product selection, so you can decide what to buy, how much to buy and where to send a model (item) knowing that it is going to be sold. It allows you to have feedback when you have already launched your products as well, to know why they work or not beyond the sales data. Also to receive suggestions from all your collaborators with products that are missing in the collection and your clients are asking for, or other interesting products from your competition, amongst others. In summary, Wemuse helps you get the right product selection.
TFR: What are the advantages or benefits for retailers?
Ivan A.I.: An improvement in product selection has a direct impact on sellthrough and end-of-season leftovers. Wemuse directly impacts the top and the bottom line. It also allows you to detect talent and listen to your teams, which are the ones that know your client best.
Click to watch Wemuse introduction video
TFR: Following your previous experience as Retail International Director, what are your thoughts regarding Retail Revolution? What are the main changes or challenges retailers are facing today?
Ivan A.I.: Digitization has already changed retail, like other sectors, and to this it has been added the way customers interact with brands and a change in their consumption habits. The main challenge for retailers is to stop thinking about the sales channel and think about the customer and understand their needs. To achieve this, apart from a change of mentality, innovation and processes digitization is mandatory.
The issues that many companies are facing is that they are not prepared to innovate, because it is very complicated to do it with the same people, with the same systems and in the same places. That’s why I think is key the collaboration between multinationals, who have the resources and the experience, and startups, who have the speed and the agility to innovate.
Nike by Melrose store
TFR: Today, many retailers are struggling to compete in the new environment (e.g. new store format, multichannel, fashion technology). What is the “new” role of the store?
Ivan A.I.: I do not share the idea of the “Retail Apocalypse”. There are still millions of people around the world who enter a physical store every day, and they will continue doing it in the future. But we can not ignore the reality, with the growth of online sales, many retailers will not be able to maintain their current park of stores.
So, what will be the store role? In a world where customers are 100% connected 24 hours a day, physical stores have deliver a different customer experience than the online one. A place to discover, try, touch, smell, learn, teach and interact with more people (employees or other clients)… and not necessarily a place where they can (only) buy. And to get this, location, shop design and teams are key. I believe that in the physical store we have to upgrade what really differentiates it from the digital experience.
On the other hand, we must not forget a reality that few people talk about. It is very complicated to make the online business sustainable in a scenario of free shipping and returns on the same day, with an almost permanent promotions war. So, the strategy of transforming traditional retail companies into pure online players is very risky.
TFR: You use to manage more than 1,500 store people in +90 countries. Shop assistant skills are changing? What do you think has changed about their role in stores?
Ivan A.I.: To me, the challenge in stores is not to use technology that replaces people, because I do not think that consumers are going to visit a store to buy from a screen or to talk to a robot if they can do that from their homes or wherever they want. I think we must use technology to support the people who work in stores, helping them to improve processes that do not add so much value so they can focus on the customer. There will be fewer people in a cash desk or doing inventories, but those people will be doing trainings in a “Genius Bar” for example, so we have to see our employees as ambassadors of our brand to our customers. Obviously, this concept changes their role and the skills they will need, but not the fact that they will continue being there.
WithMe Store at Santa Monica Place
Checkout Counter at Benetton
TFR: Supply Chains are the most important asset for many companies (mostly mass-market ones). Do you feel Art is losing importance as Science is gaining ground in the fashion industry?
Ivan A.I.: Fashion has a part of creativity, emotion, trends, a sense of belonging…, brands that succeed do it beyond technology. It is true that the technology applied to fashion companies is key to the future, and it is helping us to optimize many supply chain processes, but it will take time until AI designs a full collection, 3D printers create the garments and an algorithm invent the Instagram campaign without the intervention of Human Intelligence. I think that the creativity, the ability to understand the customer and anticipate trends still depend on people, so as in the stores, I see technology helping them to develop their potential in the different areas of the creation process, not replacing them.
TRF: What would you suggest to anyone that wants to work in the fashion industry?
Ivan A.I.: In the fashion industry there are opportunities in many sectors and for a lot of different profiles. A more creative person can work in design, and a person with a more digital profile can work in the online business, but also logistics is key now so that someone who comes from a totally different sector can fit. What I would recommend is to learn about the area where you want to work and build your career going through different areas to get the knowledge of the whole business. I think the most powerful profiles are the most versatile and those that provide different experiences. And if it is possible, to work in multinational and multicultural environments, much better. The world is very big!